tv The Lead With Jake Tapper CNN July 19, 2013 1:00pm-2:01pm PDT
minutes, we saw the president of the united states inside that daily briefing surprising everyone and speaking from the heart about what has happened in the wake of that verdict. i'm brooke baldwin, thank you for being with me, going to washington, "the lead" starts now. >> trayvon martin could have been him 35 years ago said president obama as he breaks his silence on the george zimmerman verdict. i'm jake tapper, this is the lead and we're going to begin and focus on our national lead today, it's been six days since george zimmerman was found not guilty of killing trayvon martin and beyond a statement on paper, president obama has remained silent about it until just a few hours ago. with no warning, the president made a surprise drop in during the white house briefing, and he gave his personal thoughts appearing to speak largely off the cuff. the president -- he's given in quite some time on the eve of
mass protests planned in cities across the country. it was right in the middle of the day, so many of you out there probably missed it and there was not a heads up. so we want to play for you in its entirety, the president's remarks right now. >> the reason i actually wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last week, the issue of the trayvon martin ruling. i gave a preliminary statement right after the ruling on sunday. but watching the debate over the course of the last week, i thought it might be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit. first of all, i want to make sure that once again, i send my thoughts and prayers as well as michelle's to the family of trayvon martin. and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with which
they have dealt with the entire situation. i can only imagine what they're going through and it's remarkable how they have handled it. the second thing i want to say is to reiterate what i said on sunday, which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal issues in the case. i'll let the legal analysts and talking heads address those issues. the judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. the prosecution and the defense made their arguments. the juries were properly instructed that in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was relevant. and they rendered a verdict. and once the jury has spoken, that's how our system works.
but i did want to talk about con text and how people have responded to it and how people are feeling. you know, when trayvon martin was first shot, i said that this could have been my son. another way of saying that is trayvon martin could have been me 35 years ago. and when you think about why in the african-american community, at least, there's a lot of pain around what happened here, i think it's important to recognize that the african-american community is looking at this issue through a set of experiencings. and a history that doesn't go away.
there are very few african-american men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. that includes me. there are very few african-american men who haven't had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. that happens to me at least before i was a senator. there are very few african-americans who haven't had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. that happens often. and i don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the african-american interprets what happened one night in florida.
and it's inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear. the african-american community is also knowledgeable that there is a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws. everything from the death penalty, to enforcement of our drug laws. and that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case. now this isn't to say that the african-american community is naive about the fact that african-american young men are disproportionally v lly vod inv in the criminal justice system,
they're disporoportionately the -- the reasons for that in a historical context. they understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods across the country is borne out of a very violent past in this country. and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history. and so the fact that sometimes that's unacknowledged adds to the frustration. and the fact that a lot of african-american boys are painted with a broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out there that show that african-american boys are more violent.
using that as an excuse to then see sons treated differently, causes pain. i think the african-american community is not naive in understanding that statistically, somebody like trayvon martin was probably s s statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody else. so folks understand the challenges that exist for african-american boys. but they get frustrated, i think, if they feel that there's no context for it and that context is being denied. and that all contributes, i think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario that
from top to bottom, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different. now, the question for me at least, and i think for a lot of folks is, where do we take this? how do we learn some lessons from this and move in a positive direction? i think it's understandable that there have been demonstrations and vigils and protests and some of that stuff is just going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. if i see any violence, then i will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to trayvon martin and his family. but beyond protests or vigils, the question is are there some concrete things that we might be
able to do? i know that eric holder is reviewing what happened down there. but i think it's important for people to have some clear expectations here. traditionally these are issues of state and local government. the criminal code. and law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels. that doesn't mean, though, that as a nation we can't do some things that i think would be productive. so let me just give a couple of specifics that i'm still bouncing around with my staff so we're not rolling out some five point plan, but some areas where i think all of us could potentially focus. number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at the state and local level, i think it would be
productive for the justice department, governors, mayors, to work with law enforcement about training at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists. and when i was in illinois, i passed racial profiling legislation and it actually did just two simple things, one collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped, but it resourced us training police departments across the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further professionalize what they were doing. and initially the police departments across the state were resistant, but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair, straight forward way, that it would allow
them to do their jobs better and communities would have more confidence in them and in turn be more helpful in applying the law. and obviously law enforcement's got a very tough job. so that's one area where i think there are a lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state and local governments are receptive and i think a lot of them would be, and let's figure out other ways for us to push out that kind of training. along the same lines, i think it would be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if it -- if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations and tragedies that we saw in the
florida case, rather than diffuse potential altercations. i know there's been commentary about the fact that the stand your ground laws in florida were not use as a defense in the case. on the other hand, if we're sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there's a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we like to see? and for those who resist that idea that we should think about these stand your ground laws, i just ask people to consider if trayvon martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? and do we actually think that he
would have been justified in shooting mr. zimmer marine who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened? and if the answer to that is ambiguous, we might want to examine those types of laws. number three, and this is a long-term project. we need to spend some time figgering out how do we bolster and support our african-american boys. and this is something that michelle and i talked a lot about. there are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative re-enforcement. and is there more that we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them and
values them and is willing to invest in them? you know, i'm not naive about the prospects of some grand new federal program, i'm not sure that's what we're talking about here. but i do recognize that as president i've got some convening power and there are a lot of good things that aring with done across the country, and for us to be able to gather people and figure out how do we do a better job helping young african-american men feel that they are a full part of this society and that and that they've got pathways and avenues to succeed? i think that would be a pretty
good outcome to this situation. and we're going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that. and then finally, i think it's important for us all to do some soul so much searching. there's been talk about should we convene a conversation on race? i haven't seen that be particularly productive, when politicians try to organize conversations. they end up being stilted and politicized and folks a locked into the positions they already have. on the other hand, families and churches and workplaces, there's a possibility that people are a little bit more honest and at least you ask yourself your own questions about am wringing as much bias out of myself as i
can, am i judging people as much as i can based on not the color of their skin, but the content of their character? that would, i think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy. and let me just leave you with a final thought, that as difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, i don't want us to lose sight that thing are getting better. each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race. it doesn't mean we're in a post racial society, it doesn't mean that racism is eliminated. but when i talk to malia and sasha, and i listen to their friends and i see them interact,
they're better than we are, they're better than we were on these issues. and that's true in every community that i have visited all across the country. and so, you know, we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these issues and those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using these episodes to heighten divisions. but we should also have confidence that kids these days i think have more sense than we did back then and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did and along this long, difficult journey, you
know, we're becoming a more perfect union. not a perfect union. but a more perfect union. all right? thank you, guys. >> you've been watching the president's reaction to the george zimmerman verdict six days after the jury found zimmerman not guilty in the death of trayvon martin, the martin family has just issued their own reaction to the president's remarks. we are deeply honored and moved that obama took the time to speak publicly about this. we ask for your prayers as well as we continue to move forward. we know that the death of our c son trayvon and the trial have been difficult for many people. we know our family has become a conduit for people to talk about race in our country. what touches people is that our
son trayvon benjamin martin could have been their son, president obama sees himself and identifies with him. this is a beautiful tribute to our boy. trayvon's life was cut short, but we hope that his death will make our communities -- to encourage an open and difficult dialogue. our family is committed to this dialogue through the work of the trayvon martin foundation. we seek a future that someone like our son can walk down the street without worrying about the color on his skin or the clothes on his back. let's bring in our panel to talk about all this, to have that difficult conversation that the martin family so eloquently called for just now. kevin madden, anita dunn, and clinton yates, "washington post" columnist. so, wow, that was an intense 16 minute speech by president
obama. i want to ask you all what you think the purpose of that speech was. what he wanted to achieve and whether he achieved it. anita? >> i think you saw the president refer to context several times in the course of this speech. the need to give context to this discussion and i think this is something that he does as president and that he did as a candidate is to address these issues and to try to give context to both sides to try to reduce the polarization and the divide around them. and i think that as he watched the conversation unfold this week, that he felt this was an appropriate time to step forward again, it felt very spontaneous. >> it definitely felt spontaneous. i didn't feel like in this speech as opposed to other speeches that he was trying to give context to both sides. i felt that he was trying to speak as an african-american and maybe trying to explain the reaction in the african-american community to people that are not
>> let me address that. a lot of that is the fact that people don't want to be real with themselves as to what they believe. just because they bring up a topic that happens to be uncomfortable. tr t have a cothe perso that's peoploilnestbout wlhatnd try to chae it bond jussay i want to talk about the talk. >> there's also the reality that the president hasn't been the uniter that he promised to be. >> i guess that as usual the conversati conversation evolves to people -- i think that the
president of the united states at a time when there's a national conversation going on, whoever that president is, has a real responsibility to step up and to help shape it in a way that's going to be constructive and to help move this country in rega regard -- forward. i think president obama as the first african-american president, when those opportunities arose has always done just that and done that in a way that does help move it forward. and i think if you look at his speech from 2008 and if you look at his speech today, the philadelphia speech. and you look at today, and you see him constantly talking about, you know, talking honestly to both sides. and across the divide, but what you also see the president doing is speaking about the progress and speaking about it in a very real, tangible way towards that more perfect union. and i think that's what presidents do at this time is they help guide a discussion
towards a more productive discussion. >> i want to update you on some other breaking news going on this afternoon, out of detroit. in the past hour, a michigan judge has ruled that the bankruptcy filing for the city of detroit violates the state constitution and he's ordered that the case be withdrawn. detroit officials filed for bankruptcy yesterday as we reported here on "the lead" the move could slash pension benefits and leave just pennies on the dollar. just wanted to make sure that that news was conveyed. we're going to have much more discussion on "the lead" you heard what the president had to say on a stand your ground laws, will the presidentthe -- we'll zarden and more on our panel. stay with us. every day we're working to be an even better company -
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i just ask poem to consider if trayvon martin was of ages and had a glun, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk and do we actually think he would have been justified in shooting mr. zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt threatened. and if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me we might want to examine those kinds of laws. >> and for more reaction on the president's remarks, we have new york senator corrie booker, thank you so much for calling in. a personal speech here by the president. what ee's your reaction? >> i'm really happy that he said it. sometimes you break through the noise and the sound bites by gettiget getting personal, helping people to understand your own experiences and sharing that heart with the country.
i'm glad he came forward not reading from a speech or from a teleprompter, but speaking from the heart in a way that could touch other hearts. >> he definitely was talking not just as a leader, but as an african-american, someone who has experienced some discrimination in this country. talk if you would about the line that politicians have to walk when it comes to talking about things related to their own personal experience with the risk of alienating or at least not communicating with some of the people listening? >> well, i actually think it's a good thing. i think the more we hear the experiences of others, the more we're able to relate to those experien experiences. you listen to women talk about the second class treatment they get, you see that it's real and you see how it evidences itself in the military, if you listen to muslim americans talk about now how it feels to be in a
state of constant suspicion, you can relate it back to yourself. so to have the president start with a very human experience but to reach out to help people understand that we are all in this together, that we all share a common destiny, that the challenges of an inner city african-american boy does relate to our lives and we are invested in that outcome no matter what our opinion. >> the president stayed trayvon martin could have been me in the past. what's your experience? you have grown up in a world of some privilege, your parents having worked hard to achieve in this country, you went to a nice school, you had a nice job, before you became a city councilman and a mayor, not that those are not nice jobs, but you know what i mean. are you familiar with the kind of experiences that president obama talked about today, clutching purses in an elevator?
>> after the rodney king verdict really expressing the pain it was having that kind of suspicion directed towards you, having interactions with the police, being accused of stealing a car that i was driving that was my own and that build up and it's very frustrated, it's very challenging. but for me, you're right, in many ways, i grew up with a lot of privilege, and the challenge for me now is i see that a lot of these racial disparities that are experienced manifests itself in some pretty awful realities for other americans, especially those that are struggling in poor communities. and so when you have situations like new jersey, where the black population is somewhere around 13%, 14%, but the prison population is over 60% black, we all have to understand that whether we want to point fingers of blame, the reality is we also
have to accept responsibility especially if we understand that every child born in america is born equal and born with no higher proclivity toward crime. and this is where i think it's lost in this situation, that life i see, we only really have three options, we can accept things as they are, choose to blame others and do nothing, or accept responsibility as a community for changing things. and in order to create that climate, it has to start with two understandings, one is it a knowledge that we need to know more about each other and number two to understand that we're all in this together. and i think the president was just talking to america in that way, let's understand each other, let's find deeper knowledge and love for one another and let's also understand if we do nothing as a country, we're going to continue to have challenges that affect
us all. prison population soaring in america affects all. >> mayor corrie booker, good luck out there on the campaign trail, we'll talk to you soon. >> thank you very much. coming up, what legal options if any do trayvon martin's parents have left? we'll talk to the defense attorney in the simpson trial coming up. at a dry cleaner, we replaced people with a machine.
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trayvon martin could have been me. >> welcome back to "the lead" white house reporters were surprised by president obama walking in the briefing room to talk about the trayvon martin case. and as you just heard, the stand your ground law, i want to bring in christopher darden former defense attorney and o.j simpson prosecutor. christopher, thank you for joining us. before i ask you about some of these legal questions, i'm interested in hearing your personal reaction to the speech. >> i'm thrilled to have walked in to cnn and to see the president talking about this issue. this issue of race is an issue that's always divided this nation and it continues to divide us and i think that today, given the demonstrations and reactions that we have seen to the zimmer marine trial, i
think that it was very important for him to speak to the issue. i thought his comments were very thoughtful, i appreciate the fact that he personalized his statements. i could tell that as he spoke that he was speaking from the heart, from his own common experience and i think it's important, whether you are conservative or liberal, black or white, that you listen to the president, and consider what he had to say today. i think it was important. >> you were a prosecutor for another very racially charged case, the o.j. simpson case, we heard corrie booker talk about the rodney king verdict, which happened all around the same time. tell us about the experience you had, i know you have talked about this in the past, but bring us back to a different time period, to a different racially divisive issue. what was it like being an african-american prosecutor prosecuting an african-american during a very controversial
decision. >> it wasn't very comfortable, i can tell you that, because here in los angeles, people splits along racial lines whether they thought that o.j. simpson was getting a raw deal or whether he was guilty. we saw jubilation at the fact that this man who many of us believe murdered two innocent people was acquitted. i think that when you think about o.j. simple son and 1995 and that verdicts, one of the things i always remember and talk to people about is the snowball effect of race and racism. we dealt with the issue of the rodney king verdict, the rodney king beatings, the riots, chief darrell gates and the way it conducted its business in the late 80s and early 90s, which many african-americans were
offended by and victimized by. back then the lapd had a way of stopping an african-american, profiling african-americans, and detaining african-americans without probable cause in my view. so these tensions build up. each time there is a racial incident, there is a snowball effect and ultimately, these things explode. into something very bad. it exploded into riots in 1992 and they are the partial reason why i think o.j. simpson was acquitted ultimately. >> let's play something the martin family attorney said about the justice department investigation and goal yoet you reaction to it. >> in the civil rights violation case we do get to look directly at race which was not addressed in the state case. so if somewhere, whether god meant it -- it's something.
>> because the state's case did not address race, that makes it easier for the justice department's investigation to find something race related? >> well, you know, i think first of all, race was addressed in the zimmerman case, but it was addressed by the defense not necessarily the prosecution. but i think the justice department is going to have a difficult time trying to make out a civil rights case. they have to show that race was the motivation, the primary reason that zimmerman shot this boy and i don't think they're going to be able do do it. i don't think the evidence is there. perhaps there's somebody out there who can attest to zimmerman's true racial attitudes and how he truly feels about african-americans. perhaps there's someone out there who's had a conversation with zimmerman since the
shooting who might offer an account from zimmerman's own mouth that is different from what we have seen in the civil case. but i don't think the justice department can bring a civil case against zimmerman, not at this point, not with this evidence. >> christopher darden, thank you so much, please stick around which want to get more of your reaction ahead as we continue to cover this story, and the remarks about president obama about the zimmerman verdict. the great outdoors...
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have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. if i see any violence, then i will remind folks that that dishonors what happened to trayvon martin and his family. >> welcome back to "the lead" a rare speech on race from president obama is sparking both applause and outrage in the wake of the george zimmerman case. we have former adviser to mitt romney, clinton yates, "washington post" columnist and christoph christopher darden, prosecutor in the o.j. simpson trial. some people are saying i want to like this speech from president obama, but it sounds like he's saying we need to have a conversation about your racism. that's the reality of the scenario. what i liked about too was that he approached it from a nonangry
standpoint which some people automatically assume that when you're address -- i think the fact that he was off script as booker spoke to earlier, this spoke to the fact that this is something that he thinks about, it's something that a lot of people think about, it's a reality for others. >> some of the blow back that we have seen, we think if this is going to be a dialogue, this can't be a lecture. >> i have to agree with clinton there, i think he was personal and measured, but to use his own words, the president said when politicians try to organize conversations they end up being stilted and politicized and folks are locked into the positions they already have. that is the president's greatest challenge right now. are we past the point that the president, with a speech or whatever actions he can take from his office, is he -- are we past where he's able to have a really discernible impact anymore?
>> and i think that part of personalizing the speech was having this conversation with the american people, both as president, but also has an african-american man who has experienced this and who can speak from his own personal experience, but also, and as i think both panelist members have referred to, you know, put it in the reality of how everybody sees these issues. >> but not everybody sees them in the same way. that's what i'm wondering about. >> that he sees validity in a lot of different viewpoints which has always been the way he approaches these issues of race is to say this is how i see them and this is a lot of the reality that people like me live through, but i also understand and listen to you when you talk about the reality as you see these issues as well. and that's a critical part to making this not -- not having some sort of political, let's pull everybody together for a
racial summit, but try to encourage the reaeeal conversats that have to take place as the president said in the churches and their schools and their workplace. >> christopher darden, you have talked about this on this program and elsewhere, that you don't think there's a civil rights charge that can successfully be brought against george zimmerman. are you concerned about disappointment that individuals like reverend al sharpton who are talking about the need to repeal stand your rights laws and that we need to file civil charges, do you think that since there's not going to be immediate successful action that there are a lot of people that are going to be unhappy. >> i think people are going to be unhappy either way it goes, if charges are filed, if federal charges are filed, i'm sure millions of americans will be upset about that as well. i think the issue of filing the civil rights case and the issues
of stand your ground law are two separate issues, like the president said. he said we really need to examine a law that allows a man to bring a gun to a fistfight, kill a kid and get away with it. >> but that law was obviously not invoted in the trial itself, but it was mentioned around the edges certainly. >> it was mentioned around the edges and i'm sure it was certainly thought of and considered in the minds of the jurors. you know, we're talking about self-defense, common law self-defense, stand your ground law, regardless. but these are laws that need to be reexamined, certainly in this context, in the zimmerman case. great conversation, i hope to continue it in the days and weeks to come. a difficult conversation as the trayvon martin family said we need to have in this country. thank you so much. coming up, it was certainly rare and minutes into the president's speech, some pundits were already in a rush to label
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being the first african-american president has put president obama in an interesting position. we saw him back in 2008, when then candidate obama distanced himself from controversial marks made by his former pastor, jeremiah wright. >> the fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we have never really worked through. a part of our union that we have not yet made perfect. >> the president's race speech in phil from five years ago, joining me live as presidential historian douglas brinkley, he's also a biographer of rosa parks, i should note. douglas, let's talk about the nature of this speech. some pundits were quick to push back against labeling it historic, particularly since we have heard the president address race matters before. do you think this is a historic speech comparing it to other speeches in past presidencies? >> oh, no, this was not john fmt
kennedy locking horns with george wallace or l.b. jmt saying we shall overcome. i think it was personal remarks to the nation and the president was just having this burden on his back and felt that he needed to confront all this. >> what did you find most notable about the president's remarks? >> i think that periodically he comes forward and starts trying to have a dialogue about race in the country. i think the fact that he can invoke his daughters, this notion of, "the invisible man" that white people either don't look at them at all or they lock doors. his daughter's relationship with white america is stronger than the previous generation, so it's
a mixture of frustration at the verdict in florida and a hope that things can getting better. >> i spoke just a few minutes ago about his 2008 race speech and his clips about that speech. >> we do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. but we do need to remind ourselveses that the disparities that exist between the -- can be traced directly to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation, a lack of economic opportunity among black men and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family. contributed to the erosion of black families. a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. that anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white
co-workers or white friends, but it does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop, around the kitchen table, at times that anger is exploited by politicians to gin up votes along racial lines or to make up for a politician's own failings and occasionally it finds voice in the church on sunday morning. in the pulpit and in the pews. >> douglas, what are the differences and similarities that you hear between that speech and the president's remarks today? >> that was a brilliantly crafted speech. that's one for the ages and they have come from barack obama that many americans fell in love with, that somebody could talk that openly about jim crow and slavery, our first african-american president. today he was simply expressing more of a frustration of what happened in florida and it might become a rally cry for the democrats in the midterm election on this concept of throw away this stand your ground law, many americans are
very upset about it. the president thought he couldn't stay on the sidelines. i think the news cycle is going to only run this for a few days. in the biography of president obama, this will be a significant couple of pages that he was willing to step out. and there's a reason he keeps his public opinion ratings in the african-american community at 85%, 90%. he knows how to talk to that community and he felt he needed to be sort of a pastor to them right now. many african-americans or minorities are feeling deeply frustrated at the zimmerman acquittal. >> can you give us an idea of where you think today's remarks, what place they have in the president's legacy, if any? >> because since he was the first african-american president historians are always going to look on how he felt with race, and this was a significant event today, it's one that the weekend
news shows will keep talking about. often a president likes to throw himself into a court case and barack obama just did it. trayvon martin is like emmett till. it's going to be a dark moment in american history. >> thanks so much, i appreciate it. that's it for the lead. now it's wolf blitzer's turn. "the situation room" is on right now. happening now, breaking news, an historic, potentially game changing moment for president obama nearly one week since george zimerman's not guilty verdict. the first african-american president of the united states, as you rarely see him sharing his very personal sometimes painful experience as a black man living in this country, i'm quoting him now, trayvon martin could have been me. now, the national conversation about race it's generating, the legal impact and what does this mean for president obama's legacy? i'm wolf blitzer, you're in "the situation room."